Olympic athletes heading to Beijing warn about Chinese cyber spying


Ottawa — Canada’s leading athletes at the Beijing Winter Olympics next month are being told to take special precautions against China’s cyber surveillance, including the risk of electronic devices being infected with spyware.

Sports Minister Pascal Stoongji said the government is “working closely” with the Olympic and Paralympic Committee, which is explaining China’s security to athletes, including the risks of hacking.

The minister said the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic Commission is implementing a “solid” plan to protect athletes, including from espionage by Chinese.

“Athletes have been briefed on security,” she said in an interview with the Canadian press. “Cybersecurity is part of the briefing that athletes receive.”

St-Onge said it cannot disclose operational plans to protect athletes for security reasons.

“We are familiar with espionage with China and all these issues,” said the Minister.

The International Olympic Committee provides phones and SIM cards for all athletes, including the Canadian team, to use while there.

She said the government has made consular services available in China when Canadian athletes need help.

She said that “all other security aspects, be it spies or others,” are covered by training and briefings by the Olympic and Paralympic Committees.

“We are there to provide all the support and intelligence we have,” she said. “We are working closely together and the plan is solid.”

She also said that strict precautions have been taken to protect athletes, coaches and support staff from COVID-19 while they are in China in a bubble.

St. Onji said the world’s eyes will be on China during the Olympics and Paralympics, which will begin three weeks later.

Like all Olympic organizers, she said the Chinese are responsible for ensuring that athletes are safe and secure.

She said she thought Canada had made the right decision to join other countries, including the United States, in China’s diplomatic boycott on human rights issues. Politicians and diplomats do not participate in the match, but athletes compete as usual.

“We have made the right decision. There are other countries that have adopted the same strategy. Human rights issues are certainly an ongoing issue and cannot be solved by themselves, the Olympic Games will be held. It won’t be resolved whether or not. “

Nicole Watts, spokesman for the Canada Paralympic Committee, said cybersecurity is part of the game’s planning.

“We take cybersecurity seriously,” the Canadian Olympic Commission said in a statement.

“We work with cybersecurity experts, government agencies, the International Olympic Committee, and other National Olympic Committees to make the right plans for all the Olympic environments we work with,” said a spokesman. Says.

“We remind all Team Canada members that the Olympic Games offer a unique opportunity for cybercrime, keep personal devices at home, and personal information stored on the devices brought into the game. We encouraged you to be more diligent in the game, such as limiting it. Always practice good cyber hygiene. “

St. Onji, who became Minister of Sports in October, said the safety of athletes and people involved in sports in general is her priority.

“We need to prevent and deal with abuse, abuse and harassment in sports involving many Canadian youth. This will be the focus of my first year in this role,” she said. Said.

She said finding a way to keep children and adults active during a pandemic is an important challenge, with limits on contacts and the number of people who can participate in the sport.

The minister is preparing to announce a $ 80 million injection into community sports to “help young people reactivate”, forcing many clubs to close their doors for COVID-19. It has been.

“We need to find a solution to keep children and adolescents active and to enable Canadians to become active and practice sports. How important it is to mental and physical health. We know that and it has been very difficult for the last two years, “she said.

Along Marie Woolf

Canadian press